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Eatontown Personal Injury Law Blog

Portable brain scanner provides early detection possibilities

A new method to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injury is quickly approaching and may soon be available for patients in New Jersey. As traumatic brain injury is responsible for nearly 2,500 deaths in the U.S. annually and over 35,000 hospitalizations, the new diagnostic appliance is welcomed in the medical community.

The device uses infrared waves to scan the brain for injury. Referred to as Near Infrared Spectroscopy, or NIRS, the scope can produce a reasonable image of the outer portion of the brain and measure brain activity. As an optical scanner, it is non-invasive and requires no incision into the skull; in addition, infrared waves have no side effects.

Diagnostic mistakes leading cause of malpractice claims

Each year, some New Jersey residents are seriously injured because of medical errors that are made when they go to hospitals or to their doctors' offices for care. One of the most frequently occurring types is diagnostic mistakes.

According to a medical malpractice insurance provider, diagnostic errors were the leading cause of claims for medical malpractice between 2013 and 2017. the insurer found that 33 percent of the malpractice claims were made based on diagnostic mistakes. The second-most common form of medical malpractice was surgical errors at 24 percent of the claims. Medical management errors came in third at 14 percent.

2nd medical opinions could reduce misdiagnoses and improve care

The high rate of misdiagnoses does not support the confidence that many people in New Jersey have in their medical providers. A Gallup Poll from 2010 showed that 70 percent of Americans did not feel inclined to get second opinions for their medical diagnoses. However, as many as one-third of diagnoses could be wrong or partially wrong according to the executive vice president of Advance Medical.

Among people who seek second opinions about their medical problems, a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that 88 percent of them received a new or updated diagnosis. For people facing serious illnesses, accurate diagnoses could lead to more effective treatments at earlier stages of disease. Time lost because of a misdiagnosis could raise the costs of treatment.

What New Jersey residents should know about immunotherapy

Chemotherapy is not the only option for treating cancer. Immunotherapy is an upcoming form of treatment where a drug enhances the immune system so that it attacks rapidly dividing cancer cells. As it is still in the developmental stage, its effects cannot be properly measured, and its side effects are often misdiagnosed.

Immunotherapy patients normally feel like they are fighting the flu with symptoms like fever, nausea and fatigue among the most common side effects. Aches and pains may develop in random areas, making a correct diagnosis difficult. Patients may also experience dry mouth, a loss of appetite and a rash where they were injected. This would be due to an allergic reaction to a new drug.

Government drops appeal on malpractice verdict

The United States government has decided to drop the appeal of a $42 million judgment in favor of the parents of a young boy who was disabled during childbirth. According to the lawsuit, a doctor at a government-backed hospital caused traumatic brain injuries through the negligent use of forceps during the delivery. Devastating injuries similar to the ones in this case can happen anywhere in New Jersey or across the United States.

The appeal followed a verdict from a six-day trial in 2016 in which the child's parents testified how the doctor used the forceps with such force that it caused skull fractures, brain bleeding and brain damage. This occurred in the absence of any medical emergency given that both mother and child weren't in distress at the time. The court also heard testimony that the doctor was "straining, red-faced and sweaty" when attempting to extract the baby despite the fact that the mother's vital signs were normal and she had only just begun trying to push.

Infections may cause symptoms that mimic the flu

A potentially deadly condition called necrotizing fasciitis may have symptoms that are similar to the flu. New Jersey residents with the condition may notice that they are fatigued, have the chills or are nauseous. They may also notice that they have pain in certain parts of their body where there is only a minor wound, and the skin may turn red or purple at the infection site.

In many cases, bacteria such as group A strep or Clostridium can spread through the body at a quick pace. It may only be hours between the time an infection occurs and a person starts to notice symptoms. The CDC says that the condition may be treated either with antibiotics or with surgery. There is a 27 percent mortality rate for those who contract necrotizing fasciitis, according to the CDC.

Communication may improve patient outcomes

A dermatologist that practices in New Jersey or anywhere else in America may reduce his or her odds of being sued by communicating well with patients. Overall, male dermatologists were 2.5 times more likely to face a lawsuit than females in the same field. Since females tend to be better communicators, they also tend to be the subject of lawsuits less frequently than male dermatologists are. This data comes from research published in JAMA Dermatology that analyzed a total of 90,743 closed claims.

Out of the total number of claims, 1,084 were against dermatologists while the rest were against other types of medical professionals. By actively communicating with patients, female dermatologists delivered patient-centered care, which involves listening to patient input and being encouraging and reassuring of their needs. Always providing this type of treatment may increase patient outcomes and satisfaction, and the researchers note that medical professionals of both sexes can provide this type of care.

Brain injuries linked to intestinal changes

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have discovered a two-way link among traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and changes in the colon. This may account for the increase in systemic infections that usually accompany a TBI. New Jersey residents that have experienced or know someone who has sustained a TBI will want to know more about this study.

The researchers analyzed the effects of TBIs in mice in order to reach their conclusions. The mice exhibited delayed, long-term changes in their colons as well as systemic infections in the gastrointestinal system. Since the colon was observed to become more permeable, it allowed the spread of harmful, infectious microbes. This, in turn, increased the chances of the mice exhibiting tissue loss and brain inflammation.

The factors that influence rulings on durotomy cases

Residents of New Jersey who undergo spinal surgery should know about durotomy. Dural tears are tears made in the outer membrane of the spine, and they are sometimes an unintended consequence of surgery. They do not lead to serious injuries if they are discovered and repaired right away; however, they can also generate claims of medical malpractice when they go undetected.

A study published in the medical journal "Spine" has analyzed the medical malpractice claims of 24 males and 24 females, averaging 55 years of age, who suffered from durotomy. Researchers noted how the allegations ranged from the need for additional surgery to delayed diagnoses to the reopening of dural tears after the second operation. They also noted how the injuries ranged from physical weakness (in 80 percent of the cases) to serious conditions like brain damage and even death.

Artificial intelligence and diagnosing pneumonia

New Jersey residents may soon have a lower risk of having their pneumonia misdiagnosed. Imaging software that is powered by artificial intelligence developed by researchers at Stanford University may be used to help physicians more accurately diagnose pneumonia.

The software, CheXnet, is a neural network that can evaluate images based on certain parameters. The neural network was trained using 112,120 images of chest X-rays with descriptors for up to 14 different medical conditions, one of which was pneumonia. Following one month of training, the results of the software exceed those of the other computer-based procedures that had been used to identify pneumonia.

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